Published: 12:40 GMT Daylight Time - Tuesday 01 June 2010
Prayer Focus 06/10
- EGYPT - CHRISTIAN TEENAGE BROTHERS LOSE COURT CASE
- INDIA - BRUTAL MURDER OF EVANGELIST
- IRAN - PRAYERS ANSWERED IN IRAN
- KENYA - PANEL OF JUDGES RULE IN FAVOUR OF CHRISTIAN LEADERS
- ERITREA - IMPRISONED CHRISTIAN WOMAN DIES
- IRAQ - CHRISTIAN STUDENTS INJURED IN BOMB BLASTS
- UZBEKISTAN - SERVICE RAIDED, CHURCH SEARCHED AND CHRISTIANS ARRESTED
- NIGERIA - CHURCHES AND PASTOR’S HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE
EGYPT - CHRISTIAN TEENAGE BROTHERS LOSE COURT CASE
On 30 March an Egyptian court rejected a lawsuit by Camilia Lutfi, a Christian mother who was challenging the refusal of the Egyptian authorities to re-instate Christianity on the birth certificates of her twin sons, Mario and Andrew.
When the twins were born, both their parents were Christians, but their father, Medhat Ramsis, later converted to Islam. Under Egyptian law, children of a converted parent are reckoned to follow his or her Islamic faith until the age of 15, so Medhat changed the religion listed on Mario and Andrew’s birth certificates to Islam.
The aim of Camilia’s court case was to restore the boys’ identity as Christians before their national identity cards are issued on 24 June, their sixteenth birthday. If these cards list them as Muslims and the boys then say that they are Christians, they will be seen as apostates from Islam and will be likely to suffer severe reprisals.
However, having reached the legal age of 15, Mario and Andrew should now be allowed to choose their own faith. They are committed to the Lord, saying, “We want to remain Christians and we do not wish to become Muslims,” according to the Assyrian International News Agency.
• Thank God for Mario and Andrew’s strength and faith in the Lord Jesus. Pray for their family and ask that the Lord will guide the Egyptian authorities and allow the boys’ religion to be shown as Christianity on their ID cards.
INDIA - BRUTAL MURDER OF EVANGELIST
Ravi Murmu, a Christian evangelist from Jamalpur, Bihar State, was murdered on 2 May. He was among a group of evangelists who were showing the Jesus film in nearby Laxmanpur. When he did not return home that night, a search was organised; his body was found with his right hand severed and deep cuts on his neck and other parts of his body. Ravi’s personal belongings, including his watch, mobile phone and motorbike, were found with the body, suggesting that robbery had not been the motive for the attack.
The police have reportedly detained two people in connection with the murder. When asked how the family was coping with the murder, Ravi’s brother (also an evangelist) replied, “The peace of God still reigns in this house and in this family.”
• Pray for Ravi’s widow, Rinku, and Celesty, their eight-year-old daughter, and all who knew and loved him.
Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh were acquitted on 21 May of the two remaining charges against them.
The women, both converts from Islam, were imprisoned in March 2009 on charges of apostasy, “propagation of the Christian faith” and “engaging in antigovernment activities”. They were held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for 259 days until November 2009, during which they endured repeated interrogations and solitary confinement, leaving them both seriously ill. When told to renounce their faith, the women refused, saying, “We love Jesus. Yes, we are Christians.”
Following the acquittal, Maryam said, “I have no doubt that God heard the prayers of his people.” The women have now left Iran after the Iranian authorities warned them that any future Christian activity in Iran would have severe consequences.
Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN) has also confirmed that Hamid Shafiee and Reyhaneh Aghajary, a married couple arrested on 28 February, have also been released and reunited with their sons. They were released on 19 and 16 May respectively, after 80 and 77 days in detention, following a large bail payment. They are expected to face a court hearing at a later date.
• Praise the Lord for the answer to prayer in relation to Maryam and Marzieh. Please pray for them as they recover and adjust to living in another country.
• Thank Him too for the release of Hamid and Reyhaneh, for whom many people had been praying. Pray that He will be with them and their family as they face the possibility of future court hearings. Pray also for those still in prison.
KENYA - PANEL OF JUDGES RULE IN FAVOUR OF CHRISTIAN LEADERS
A panel of judges in Kenya have ruled that the country’s Islamic courts are illegal and discriminatory.
The Islamic “Kadhi” courts were set up under British colonial rule and mainly deal with issues relating to marriage and inheritance for Kenya’s Muslim minority. In 2004 a group of Christian leaders filed a case challenging the proposal to grant constitutional status to the Kadhi courts in the new constitution that was then being drafted by the Kenyan government. Many Christians feared that the proposals for Kadhi courts would extend the authority of sharia law in Kenya and that they would also undermine the basic constitutional principle of the equality before the law of all Kenyan citizens, irrespective of religion.
The panel of judges ruled in favour of the Christians, that inclusion of Kadhi courts in the draft constitution amounted to favouring one religion over others practised in the country, and thus that Kadhi courts are unconstitutional since Kenya is a secular country. Kenya’s Attorney General, Amos Wako, claimed that the judgement is unconstitutional and said that he will appeal against it.
A referendum on the proposed new constitution is due in August.
• Praise the Lord for the decision of the judges to rule in favour of the Christian leaders. Pray that they will uphold this ruling if the Attorney General lodges an appeal.
• Pray that any reference to Kadhi courts will be completely withdrawn from the new constitution before it is finally implemented.
ERITREA - IMPRISONED CHRISTIAN WOMAN DIES
A young Christian woman has died in one of Eritrea’s notorious military prison camps, after being refused medical treatment.
Senait Oqbazgi Habta, 28, had been imprisoned for two years in the country. She and 15 other university students had been detained for attending a Bible study group and held in metal shipping containers, which can become baking hot during the day and freezing cold at night. Sources say that “she was offered freedom and medical care in exchange for abandoning her Christian faith”. Senait stood by her faith and tragically succumbed to malaria and severe anaemia on 23 April.
• Pray for those who knew and loved Senait, that they will know the Lord’s comfort and peace. Pray for the remaining 15 students, still in captivity, that their faith may not fail.
• Pray that the Lord will intervene to bring freedom and justice to Eritrea, and that Eritrean Christians will be strong witnesses for Christ.
IRAQ - CHRISTIAN STUDENTS INJURED IN BOMB BLASTS
A roadside bomb and a car bomb were detonated in close proximity to each other on 2 May in Mosul, killing a Christian shopkeeper and injuring at least 80 Christian students.
The students were travelling from a mainly-Christian town to Mosul University when the bombs exploded. The blast tore through the side of one of the buses, and the impact of shrapnel and shattered glass left many students dazed and covered in blood. The Christian community in Mosul is increasingly concerned as anti-Christian violence continues to intensify (see Prayer Focus Update March 2010).
On 11 May, lecturers and Muslim students at the university staged a sit-in to protest against anti-Christian violence, demanding that measures be taken to ensure the safety of the Christian students. They said they would return to class only when their Christian counterparts did.
• Pray for those injured in the blast, and for the family of the shopkeeper who died; pray that they will know the comfort and healing hand of the Lord Jesus.
• Praise God for such support from the Muslim students, and pray that their protest will persuade the authorities to take effective action to protect the Christian students.
• Pray too that Iraqi Christians will know the peace of our Lord, despite the terror campaign against them.
UZBEKISTAN - SERVICE RAIDED, CHURCH SEARCHED AND CHRISTIANS ARRESTED
The morning service at the Tashkent City Church of Christ was raided on Sunday 16 May by several government agencies. Eight members of the church were arrested and issued with a mixture of fines and short prison sentences.
At 11am, members of the police and the National Security Service (NSS) secret police arrived without a warrant, during the worship service. They filmed everyone present, including the children, and took passport details and car number-plates of the 500 adults present as well as the names and addresses of the children. They conducted a five-hour search of the premises and confiscated literature, computers and money from the offering. Members of the tax inspectorate, fire brigade and Sanitary-Epidemiological Service also participated in the search. After the raid the church was officially sealed by the police so that the congregation could have no further access, and the fire brigade cut off the electricity.
Those who were arrested were held overnight and then instructed to attend a court hearing. Three people, including the assistant pastor, Artur Avanesyan, were sentenced to 15 days imprisonment, while the other five were fined between five and 80 times the minimum monthly wage. One Christian who attended the trial stated, “Everyone was shocked at the verdict ... there were so many violations of legal procedure.” Local Christians are planning to appeal to the President of Uzbekistan and other authorities.
There have been a number of reports of anti-Christian harassment at churches and events in the last couple of months (see Prayer Focus Update May 2010). Tashkent City Church of Christ, one of the largest and most active churches in the Uzbek capital, has been legally registered since 1999. The church says that it has carefully followed official procedures and has never before been accused of breaching any regulations. Church members fear that the real aim of the raid is to close down the church. A Christian from an unregistered church in Tashkent commented to Barnabas Aid how shocked she was to hear of such an attack on a legally registered church: “If they do that to the Church of Christ, what will become of the rest of us?”
• Please lift our brothers and sisters in Uzbekistan to the Lord and pray especially for protection for the assistant pastor and two church members who are currently serving prison sentences.
• Pray that the authorities will not close the Tashkent City Church of Christ. Pray too that there may be a change in the law in Uzbekistan so that Christians will be allowed to meet and worship together without fear of harassment.
NIGERIA - CHURCHES AND PASTOR’S HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE
Two churches and a pastor’s house have been demolished by a group of Muslim youths in Kwasam, Kano State, northern Nigeria, reportedly because some members of the Muslim community objected to the presence of the Christian buildings.
At 11am on 19 May, an old church building and the pastor’s house were set ablaze, while the newly completed church, which was meant to replace the older building, was demolished. All of the pastor’s property was destroyed in the fire, and it is reported that he is now in hiding, after some members of the mob “vowed they would not leave the area until he was dead”.
• Pray that the church members will stand together and continue to worship the Lord despite the destruction of their place of worship.
• Pray for the church pastor who is in hiding; pray that he will find peace and comfort in the Lord.
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